Today we’re talking to two original members of the band Hotlanta, Tad Isch (founder and drummer) and Larry Bishov (drummer). Hotlanta is a fabulous Allman Brothers tribute band you should definitely take the time to go see.
How did Hotlanta get started and what inspired you to start it?
Tad: “My original mission with this band was to put together a bunch of musicians to play the Allman Brothers music because of my love of the music. And that was fine and if we got to play some places that’s great, if not that’s cool. I pulled out an old recording from when I was a kid, when I was about 18-20 years old, I still have the original recordings of those songs. I actually bought a reel to reel just so I could play them and it inspired me. I was at a party with some old friends and I walked outside and said to my buddy, “You wanna start an Allman Brothers tribute band?” I didn’t say anything more. The next day I posted on Craigslist, “Does anyone want to play Allman Brothers music?” And I found someone and it multiplied from there. Larry was one of the first people to join the band. He’s the only one to be with me since the beginning. He’s loyal, a good friend, dedicated, I can’t say enough about his commitment to the band. Over the years, we’ve turned over personnel quite a bit, for various reasons; addictions, divorces, all kinds of reasons. So, I learned to try to find people that were pretty wholesome and didn’t appear to have any major issues, had a car and a life, and have found unbelievably talented musicians. As the band grew and got better, we found even better musicians. People would leave due to personal reasons or whatever. For the most part, it’s been a pretty harmonious relationship and our band has been pretty happy and friendly and that’s been one of the best virtues of the band.”
Larry: “No back biting, no political dramas. Usually when you get a group of people, that tends to happen, and it really hasn’t happened much at all.”
That’s a tough thing to find when you have a group working as one.
Tad: “We kind of let things flow. We have such good players in the band. Everybody’s a really good player. There’s no one real single stand out. If you like guitar, you’re gonna like one of our guitar players. You like drums, you’re gonna like one of the drummers. And so on. The band is just so talented.”
What year was the band formed?
Tad: “That’s it. Larry’s the brain of the band.” (Laughter)
How many members are in the band? What kind of history and experience is there?
Tad: “8 members. Larry, why don’t you tell her the configuration.”
Larry: “Tad and I are the drummers. The third one is our percussionist (hand percussions). Then we have 2 lead guitar players. A keyboard player. And a lead singer…”
Tad: “And our bass player was a Suzuki trained violinist turned bass [player]. One of our guitar players has a pretty starry past. He played with members of Jimi Hendrix’s band after Hendrix had died, in a special project. He was in the Soul Survivors for 11 years. He’s got a pretty good past. He’s a tremendous guitar player and brings a lot of repeat people out to the shows cause he’s just so good.
Three years ago I was invited to attend an Allman Brothers music theory camp up in the Catskills. It was kind of strange how it all went down, but regardless, to make a long story short; I was able to attend on a scholarship, which was kind of amazing because they only gave one. I went to the Catskills and there were most of the Allman Brothers, members of Mississippi Allstars, a couple of people from Government Mule, one guy from Tedeschi Trucks band. All these people are there and I’m like, “You’re kidding me!” And all we did all week was take classes from them and play with them. All week, until 3:00 in the morning we’d be jamming. It was crazy. So for 3 years now, I’ve trained with the lead drummer (Butch Trucks: one of the founders and lead drummer of the Allman Brothers) of the Allman Brothers. It’s been pretty cool cause I’ve learned a lot of his stuff and been able to bring it back and bring it to Larry as well. Plus I’ve been doing some touring with him now that the Allman Brothers have retired. I’ve gotten sorta friendly with the guy. I have a place in Florida and he’s down south as well. So we’ve done a couple shows down there. We did one in NYC, blues clubs where he’s played with various musicians. I’ve played with so many musicians of note because of attending these (camps). I’m going back in August. It’ll be my fourth time going up there. Supposedly, the whole Allman Brothers band is gonna be there. I doubt Greg Allman will be there, but according to Butch, he said the whole band was coming. So, we’ll see. I can’t tell you what it’s been like to get on stage and play with those guys. To be able to sit next to Butch and play is insane. Usually I’m looking over and looking at Larry. To see Butch Trucks sitting there is pretty shocking. It’s really been fun.”
Was there a reaction when you told him you were in an Allman Brothers tribute band?
Tad: “When I told Butch originally, when I met him 4 years ago, that I was in an Allman Brothers tribute band and that I played his part, he kind of looked at me with ‘these eyes’. He wasn’t real receptive at first. Then I talked to Oteil, who’s the bass player in the band, and he was pretty cool about it. Greg Allman commented and said that imitation was the highest form of flattery. That was kind of nice.”
Were people receptive to seeing an Allman Brothers tribute band out of the gate?
Larry: “They were. The first one was in the summer of 2008 at a barn gig.”
A “barn” gig?
Tad: “Yeah. A friend of mine has a huge estate with a barn out back. Has monster parties and said “Why don’t you bring your band out?” He gave us our first opportunity. We played and the people freaked. We freaked because the people freaked. We were like “Wow! I guess we’re better than we think we are”. We had some pretty good musicians there saying “Holy crap! You guys are good!” That’s kind of how things started. We went back to the garage and kept playing and practicing. We only had about 15-18 songs. I said to Larry “We need about 45 songs. We don’t have enough”. One thing that Larry and I experienced over the years, is that some of our members wanted to do other stuff…Skynard, 38 Special, this and that…and I always had to really resist. I told Larry in the beginning that we can’t let go, we have to remain pure. At least till we’ve got our complete songbook mastered. Then we can throw some other stuff in. Larry can tell you, I never wavered on that.”
Larry: “We’d have people come in like “yeah, yeah, yeah” (to playing all Allman Brothers) and then when they get in the band they’d go “I don’t wanna do all Allman Brothers”. But that’s what it was and they knew that coming in.”
Tad: “My original thing was playing the old tunes. The old way. Now I’ve come to realize, especially after going to the Beacon, that there’s a whole new fan base out there (20’s, 30’s, 40’s), that only know the Beacon band, the current band. They don’t know the original band, Duane Allman… and most of them don’t even know who Berry Oakley is. They have no idea. I realized that the value to the fan right now is recreating the Beacon music. Current Allman Brothers band. We now take them through more decades of Allman Brothers music.
The reason for our mission was that I didn’t want to play bars and stuff like that. I did that as a kid. I wanted to try to jump over the bars to the higher end clubs, blues clubs, festivals and theaters. That was our objective and I didn’t wanna play 8 shows a month. I wanted to play 1 or 2 premium shows a month. Larry’s spent plenty of years in the clubs, we all have. And the nice thing about Larry; he’s worked with me, molded himself to be what we need to make it sound right. It’s hard because he’s always been a lead drummer. Now we’re working together. Larry has to tactfully configure himself in between the cracks. He’s the backbone and I get to elaborate and do the crazy stuff. It all goes together. We’ve both learned not to overplay.”
Larry: “Otherwise it’ll sound like a bunch of drums falling down the steps.”
I saw you guys play at Pennypack twice and was so bummed you aren’t there this year!
Tad: “This year, for whatever reason, they said we were up between two other bands. It’s funny because last year they said we were probably one of the best bands they’d ever had.”
Absolutely! I’d say Hotlanta and the Pink Floyd tribute were two of the best!!!
Tad: “The Pink Floyd band is REALLY good. I was flattered that they put us in class of that band.”
I’m disappointed you’re not on the schedule.
Tad: “I was bummed. We love that venue. We love those big outdoor shows. So you were there when Brandon (Niederauer) was there [Brandon is a child musical prodigy that played with Hotlanta at Pennypack]. Do you know what’s going on with Brandon?”
Tad: “He was just named the lead in a broadway play!”
Larry: “School of Rock.”
Wow! That kid deserves it. He’s incredible.
Tad: “He’s already played with everybody. He’s played with all the major acts.”
Larry: “I can say I shared a box of Good n’ Plenty’s with him” (laughter)
Tad: “It’s pretty cool. I’ll see him next month. He’ll be up there. I saw him in New York a couple of months ago with Butch. He’ll be at the camp this year. He’s one of the better guitar players, even out of the adults. ”
So, getting back to Hotlanta, how did the band proceed from that first barn gig?
Larry: “We just rehearsed once a week at least. Got the songs down. Then made cold calls to clubs. We got in a couple of places without even having to demo!”
Tad: “At one point, we didn’t even have a lead singer secured. We booked the show (their first at Pennypack) for July and it was February or March and I was like “I’ve gotta find a lead singer….quick.”
When you have a situation like that, having a void in the band, how do you fill that spot?
Larry: “We have two keyboard players on the bench. A couple of bass players on the bench, for fill ins. We have a back up singer that we’ve used occasionally.”
Tad: “We’ve been really blessed with quality talent, replacements. We’ve been really lucky. Vocalists is one of the hardest things. My philosophy is that anytime I’ve had to replace a player, I always try to improve the position if possible. We’ve just been so lucky. People come to us and it’s been almost magical.”
What’s been your favorite moment(s) so far as a band?
Larry: “There’s a couple of them. When we played the Phoenixville Blues Festival. We headlined that like three times in its inception.”
Tad: “Pennypack Park.”
Larry: “Yeah, Pennypack Park. Those are the biggies.”
Tad: “Phoenixville was really fun because people were right up at the stage, just jam-packed for as far as the eye can see. And the people are up at the stage screaming, smiling, we just love that. They’re having a good time, dancing. There’s nothing better. There’s just nothing better as a musician, to see people looking at you and smiling and loving what you’re doing. Probably one of the most rewarding things for me, when we go to these festivals, is to watch the other bands watching us and dancing and shaking. It’s really a blast.”
Larry: “It’s not about the money.”
Tad: “Yeah, it’s not about the money. We’re a mature bunch of guys that have had some musical credits over the years. We’re adults, we’ve raised families and now we’re just doing what we want to do.”
Have you ever gone to Peachfest (a music festival started by the Allman Brothers Band in 2012)?
Tad: “Yes. I go every year. I’m going this year. I got backstage passes and everything! Since my drum teacher is Butch Trucks, I can get into a lot of this stuff. I go to Peach Festival, then I go to camp and then the next day Butch is doing a show in Long Island with Berry Oakley Jr., which is Berry Oakley’s, the original bass prayer from the Allman Brothers, son. I may go to that unless I’m too tired to go. We’ll see.”
What’s your dream venue, if you could play anywhere?
Tad: “I would like to play Red Rocks. I’m into the outdoors. (Outdoor) theaters are really cool. They’re just wonderful and intimate.”
Larry: “I’d say that’s a choice spot.”
To learn more about Hotlanta, visit some of their social media sites:
Facebook: Hotlanta band live
YouTube: Hotlanta band live